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Public Statements

Prescription Drug and Medicare Improvement Act of 2003

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. PRYOR. Mr. President, last night was a difficult night for me because I was lying in bed worrying about the insurance companies and how we were not getting them enough money during this Congress. Of course, I am being facetious because I think we have a very clear choice.

I commend Senator Dorgan, Senator Durbin, and a number of others who have shown national leadership on this effort to try to make this bill better. I think there is a broad consensus that we want to add a prescription drug benefit to Medicare. We want to help seniors all over this country, but at the same time we have to make sure it is set up the right way. It has to make sense.

Quite frankly, one of the things that to me does not make sense, and probably to most people around the country does not make sense, is that we might give a pretty healthy sum of money to the insurance industry.

All over the country—and I know it is certainly true in my State—insurance companies are raising premiums. It may be health care premiums—everybody knows those are going up. It may be property and casualty; it may be homeowners policies, auto policies, medical malpractice, legal malpractice. You name it, across the board, as far as I know, the price of every single kind of insurance in this country is going up.

Nonetheless, there are some in this Congress who want to actually give them a sizable chunk of money that could go to people who really need the help.

I take my hat off to Senator Dorgan for his leadership. One thing he has figured out is a way to make the monthly premium less for people. Now, saving $6 a month to someone at my income level, and all of our income levels, that is not a lot of money, but for those senior citizens all over this country who live below the poverty level—the only money they get every month is Social Security, maybe a little help from the family—$6 is a lot of money. Six dollars may make this program affordable for them. It is real money. It is money that at the end of the year, if you add it up, is only $72 a year, but that is real money to so many Americans all over this country.

The purpose of the bill, not just this amendment but the whole bill, is to help Americans afford their prescription drugs. I know that Senator Durbin, who is in the Chamber, and Senator Dorgan and a number of others in this Chamber have tried to make prescription drugs more affordable in this legislation. There have been different efforts tried in different ways. One of the things I tried was to strengthen reimportation from Canada to try to make prescription drugs more affordable, but certainly making the premiums more affordable makes the program more accessible to more Americans. That is a win/win/win for everybody.

So I thank the Senator from North Dakota for yielding me some of his time. I know he is frantically talking to colleagues to try to have them adopt this amendment when we vote on it this afternoon.

Let's run through the numbers very quickly one more time so we understand clearly what we are talking about. This amendment expends $2.4 billion per year to make premiums cheaper. It will reduce the typical premium—this is average—by $6 a month.

I take my hat off to the folks in this Chamber who worked out compromise after compromise after compromise trying to come up with solutions to make this bill something that will become law, something that the majority of Members can vote for, not just in this Chamber but the House, something the President can sign.

I believe strongly people in this country deserve to have access to these wonderful prescription medications that are in many ways miracle drugs. It is a shame for this country to have these drugs available on the marketplace but so expensive that people cannot afford them. That is what we are trying to accomplish.

I yield the floor.

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